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Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Scientists progress in unlocking new leukemia treatments

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CANBERRA (CU)_Leukemia is a form of blood cancer which is usually treated with a bone marrow transplant. Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) together with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have discovered how acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), can “switch off” the MHC class II protein, causing the leukaemia to evade the immune system. 

The molecular switch permits cancer cells to evade recognition and blocks the immune system from causing its destruction. Scientists have concluded that drugs targeting this molecular switch could be used to turn MHC class II back on again, by brining MHC class II to the surface of the AML cells, where cancer is again visible to the immune system and can be identified and removed. 

Many cancer researchers have often tried to evaluates how certain cancers escape to immune system. Researchers are hopeful the principles of this research could present an opportunity to treat a range of other cancers, including melanoma (skin cancer). 

AML an aggressive blood cancer affects around 900 Australians annually.  

Lead author Dr Kah Lok Chan, a haematologist from Peter Mac said “For many AML patients, especially those with high-risk disease factors, bone marrow transplantation is the most effective way to treat the leukemia.” Dr. Chan also stated that it was unfortunate that up to 50% of AML bone marrow transplant recipients see a relapse.

The research was carried out where scientists imitated the growth of the aggressive AML cells in humans by growing them in the laboratory. 

Associate Professor Burr stated that using CRISPR gene editing technology they could identify the proteins linked to turning off MHC class II in AML and other cancers. The discovery of CRISPR gene editing has taken life science to new heights with where the technology has been used for treating genetic diseases and crops in agriculture.

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